Merida is NOT a good role model because she is not “traditionally feminine.” She IS a good role model because she learns from her mistakes, is fiercely loyal to herself and family, will do anything to protect her mother (at the end of the movie), and is free spirited. She is NOT a good role model because she doesn’t like to wear fancy dresses. She is NOT a good role model because she is “anti-femininity.” If you think she is a good role model because she only likes to spend time with Angus, shoot arrows, and go on adventures in the woods you missed the entire point of Brave and Merida’s character arch in the movie.
Also, while you are defending Merida please do not bash the other princesses. They do have more to offer than just sitting around looking pretty waiting for Prince Charming to come and save them. They are all actors (actresses?) in their own movies. So most of the princesses couldn’t shoot an arrow but that doesn’t mean they are bad role models. So the majority of the princesses end up with a prince, that doesn’t change the fact they are all strong women. Being with a man doesn’t change the fact that these women survived abusive homes, stepped up to their responsibilities, saved their prince (Ariel, Belle, Tiana, and Rapunzel all saved their prince at least once in the movie), achieved their dreams, and dictated their future. Also, all the princesses are conventionally beautiful, including Merida. Merida is thin and white. Sure her face is more cartoonish than the other princesses but that doesn’t mean she is some ugly duckling.
All I am asking is, can we please stop bashing femininity and girls who are traditionally feminine when writing about Merida? These articles got really old a year ago.
I haven’t seen too much femininity bashing per se but I agree that I dislike a lot of the dialogue surrounding the redesign. There’s been a lot of emphasis on Merida being “the princess we were WAITING for” (which is why I haven’t published so much on the petition since the introduction focuses heavily on “we were waiting for a strong princess”) and “she saves herself rather than waiting around for a guy unlike the other princesses” which really, does not fully describe most of the other princesses. & the whole “we finally got this princess” thing ignores how much PoC princesses like Tiana, Mulan, and Pocahontas contributed to the whole independence/action sequence princess options.
And yeah, they all had guys and romance, but really, that wasn’t even anything in Mulan’s movie in terms of affecting how she moved through the plot. She did everything on her own, for her own reasons, and she saved everyone by herself.
I mean it’s great Merida exists but we don’t have to act like she’s groundbreaking on every level in order to disagree with the hyper-traditionally-feminine redesign which is a problem because it does not agree with her character, and assumes all princesses have to be traditionally feminine regardless even of their personal preferences and movies. And considering that Disney makes a fair amount of effort to try and define girlhood in their marketing, that is something to be concerned about.
Thank you! I signed the petition because the redesign was whack but the language it was couched in made me uncomfortable and ultimately prevented me from sharing it on my blog.
Let’s just do a quick recap of what Merida is lauded for in this petition shall we? Her love for and skill in combat, her ability to ‘save herself’, her eschewing of ‘princess’ trappings, her ‘natural’ appearance. These are all fine traits, and deserve highlighting, but the context in which Merida is celebrated is often completely ignorant of how race, femininity and gender intersect on Disney princess bodies.
Mulan was a woman who didn’t quite fit the rigid gender expectations foisted on her, who joined the army to save her father, and who ended up inspiring an army and saving her nation.
Tiana overcame all obstacles to realize her dream: owning her own business.
Jasmine openly spoke out against the customs of arranged marriage and slipped out of the palace to explore life beyond her sheltered walls.
Kida saves Atlantis and helps rebuild an empire.
All these princesses have something in common: they are princesses of color.
Why aren’t these characters lauded as ‘the princesses we’ve been waiting for? Why aren’t these women recognized as ‘breaking the princess mold’? Why aren’t they celebrated as groundbreaking feminist icons?
It’s because within white heteropatriarchy, femininity is always implicitly coded as white, and women of color are expected, and often violently forced, into situations that are considered unfeminine: fending for ourselves, fighting off oppressive fathers, saving ourselves because we’re ‘stronger’ than the white fragile, princess-type women. When strength and independence is demanded of you, it becomes just as oppressive as when weakness and dependence are ascribed to you. The struggles to assert humanity and agency are different for white women than they are for women of color, and yet this truth remains unacknowledged in these princess conversations. Merida is hailed so much because she breaks the white princess mold. Mulan and Jasmine and the other princesses of color aren’t celebrated because they’re performing what’s ‘expected’ of WOC.
Merida is a groundbreaking white princess. But let’s be real: she’s still a white princess in a pantheon that’s glaringly white. We can celebrate her story without diminishing those of Mulan and Kida, and we can love Merida while being realistic about how far Disney has to go in deconstructing racialized femininity.
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